Marie Hattar
Chief Marketing Officer
Blog

Bypassing the costs of critical IT events

November 6, 2016 by Marie Hattar

So-called ‘critical IT events’ are costing European organizations up to £3 million UKP per year, according to new research.  The study defines these critical events as when ‘a business application or infrastructure is down or has a malfunction’.  In turn, the event stops key business processes, or prevents users or customers from being able to carry out standard activities.  As the research reveals, they are far more common than you might expect – with 36 happening every year in the average organization – or one critical event every 10 days.

Part of the problem is the increasing complexity of most enterprise IT architectures, which comprises a complex mix of on-premise and cloud-based services, a vast array of connected IoT devices and rapidly changing user bases.  In such dynamic environments, it’s obviously challenging to try and eliminate the possibility of faults and mistakes happening.

However, this does not mean that organizations need to resign themselves to regular outages and failures, and potential multi-million dollar bills for losses and remediation costs.  Instead, businesses need to go back to the basics of network architectures, using simple principles to cut through the complexity of their IT infrastructures and deliver greater robustness and resilience.

The key point to consider is the notion of single points of failure on networks. The issue with critical IT events isn’t usually that something has gone wrong – because things always WILL go wrong.  Rather, it’s that something has gone wrong and subsequently had a ripple effect which has in turn, disrupted other systems and impacted business operations. A single malfunctioning network appliance shouldn’t be enough to, say, prevent all online shoppers from completing their transactions – and yet all too frequently, it is.  Why is this?

The problem lies with serial inline deployments of network and security tools. While each may be carrying out an essential scanning or filtering function, because they are all in a row, to all intents and purposes, if one fails, they all fail.  And failure can be caused by simple things – loss of power, traffic congestion, for example, or an accidental misconfiguration by networking or security personnel.  All too often, this means your network, and your business grinds to a halt – costing precious time and money.

Yet the problem is easily rectified.  Bypass switches are incredibly simple devices, which sit quietly on your network monitoring the flow of traffic through your inline devices. They send what are called ‘heartbeat’ packets through the device at regular intervals – if a packet fails to come back to the switch, then the device is assumed to have failed.

At this point, the bypass mechanism kicks in, and the switch smoothly re-routes network traffic around the failed tool or device.  What’s more, it sends an instant alert to the IT team, so problems with devices can be identified, isolated and ultimately repaired quickly and – critically – without bringing down your business applications and processes.

If it sounds simple, that’s because it is simple – but highly effective nonetheless. There are two broad types of bypass switches – external ones, which are standalone devices, and internal ones, which are built into the hardware of the network security appliances themselves. While the internal bypass switch may seem like the more sensible option, in practice, should you need to take a security appliance offline (which always happens, whether for maintenance, upgrade or an unplanned event), you will also automatically remove the bypass switch – which will disrupt the flow of network traffic.  Far better to invest from the outset in standalone, external bypass switches, allowing them to focus purely on the task in hand of monitoring devices and re-routing traffic when needed.

As your enterprise IT architecture becomes ever more complex – whether because of the ever-expanding Internet of Things, the shift to more flexible hybrid cloud models or simply your own growth and expansion, the risk of a single, simple device failure causing catastrophic and costly downtime increases too. That risk can be mitigated by deploying external bypass switches.  Why not download our bypass switch buying guide to help you decide on the right solution for your network?